Wait and See on NGB?

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates hedged on maintaining the 2018 initial operational capability goal for a next generation bomber, saying the state of the economy has shed a different light on the NGB and other aspects of the nation’s strategic posture. He deflected a question from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who wanted to know what steps would let the department reach the 2018 goal, saying that the new bomber would “clearly have to be a focus of the Quadrennial Defense Review.” Gates continued, saying he hoped to accelerate the QDR process so that it could “if not shape the FY10 budget, have a dramatic impact on the FY11 budget.” The lack of wholehearted support by Gates for the continuation of the new bomber program may come as a surprise to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy nominee Michele Flournoy, who during her confirmation hearing called the need for such a capability “absolutely critical” for the penetrating strike mission against sophisticated air defense networks. Still, she and Deputy Defense Secretary nominee William Lynn both agreed it would be a central topic of the upcoming QDR.